How to fit a difficult bike tyre

Follow these tips to fit tricky bike tyres with minimum hassle

Clock14:01, Tuesday 4th July 2023

Ever had a tyre that won’t fit to a wheel, no matter how hard you try? It doesn’t matter whether it’s cheap or expensive tyres, winter or summer, or even clincher or tubeless, it’s something everyone encounters at some point. Cue plenty of frustration and choice words.

Don’t give up just yet. With the help of Alex’s top tips, even the most stubborn tyre can be fitted with minimum hassle.

Tools Needed

Some tyres are naturally hard to fit to wheels.

Step 1

Why are some tyres difficult to fit?

As you’re wrestling with a tyre, on the verge of throwing in the towel, you can be forgiven for asking ‘why me?’.

There are two main causes of difficulty. The first is the manufacturing tolerances of both the tyre and the rim. The circumference of the bead on some tyres is slightly smaller than on others, and tyres with slightly smaller beads will be harder to fit. This can be made trickier by wheels which can also have slightly different inner rim circumferences. If you marry up one that’s on the larger end of the scale with a tyre on the lower end, it’s going to be a tricky combination.

The second is a matter of technique. Fitting a tyre may seem straightforward but there are certain techniques that will make your life a lot easier.

Whichever problem you’re having, our below tips will help to get that pesky tyre seated on the wheel.

Position the tyre in the centre of the rim to create extra slack.

Step 2

How to position the tyre bead

Fitting a tyre to a wheel is usually easy, until you reach the last little piece that simply won’t fit, no matter how hard you try.

To make the job easier, go back around the tyre that’s already fitted to the wheel, making sure that the tyre bead is positioned in the middle of the wheel rim. The central well is the deepest part of a wheel’s rim and positioning the tyre here will create extra slack.

Top Tip

When fitting a tyre, start at the opposite side of the wheel to the valve. Then work your way around until the last section of unfitted tyre is around the valve area.

It's easier to use tyre levers than just your hands.

Step 3

Invest in high-quality tyre levers

Not all tyres are tricky to fit and the job can often be completed with just your hands.

That may have worked before but they won’t be enough for a stubborn tyre. For that you’re going to need the additional help of tyre levers.

There are lots of different tyre levers out there, but we’d recommend investing in a high-quality set. These will usually be made from nylon or have a metal core with a nylon cover, and the latter are especially useful for stubborn tyres.

Using a high-quality set will help to protect the tyre and wheel, plus there’s less risk of them snapping.

Apply soapy solution to the tyre bead.

Step 4

Lubricate the tyre

Even if you’ve followed our previous tips, it may not be enough to overcome a stubborn tyre dilemma.

So, it’s time to recruit the help of washing up liquid or soap. Mix a little bit of washing up liquid with water to create a soapy solution. Then use your finger to apply it to the inside section of the tyre bead that’s causing the problem. We’d avoid pouring it on as things can quickly become messy and it’ll be hard to grip the wheel if it gets everywhere.

This will usually be enough to finish the job.

Top Tip

Remember to insert the inner tube or tyre sealant, depending on your setup, before fitting the last stretch of tyre. You don’t want to finally get it fitted, only to go through the whole process again.

Use a tyre lever to lift the tyre onto the rim.

Step 5

Use a tyre lever to fit the tyre

With the soapy solution applied, use tyre levers to fit the remainder of the tyre.

You’ll need to be careful here if you’re using inner tubes as it’s easy to pinch them which can cause a puncture, and a little more frustration. To avoid this, insert a little air into the tubes so that they hold their shape.

Insert the curved end of the lever under the tyre and onto the wheel rim, with the curved part facing down so that it hooks onto the rim. Then lift the opposite end of the lever, ensuring that the curved side remains firmly hooked onto the rim. Keep lifting the lever up until that section of the tyre pops onto the wheel.

Top Tip

Start from one side of the tricky section and work your way across until the tyre is completely on the wheel. Make sure that you firmly hold the tyre at the opposite end of the tricky section while doing this to prevent any of the already fitted tyre from popping off.

Always follow recommended tyre pressures.

Step 6

Check and inflate the tyre

Hopefully, your tyre should now be fitted. Phew! Now it’s just a matter of checking and inflating it.

If you have a tubed setup, squeeze the tyre into the centre of the wheel rim and double check that no inner tube is visible. Any that is squeezing out under the tyre is likely to puncture, so try to push it back under until it’s no longer visible.

If you’re using a tubeless setup, don’t be alarmed if the tyre deflates overnight. Simply pump it up again and head out for a short ride. This will disperse the sealant throughout the tyre, creating a stronger, airtight seal.

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